So what exactly can you ask your nanny to do? This question is popping up a lot.
First and foremost a nanny’s job is to take excellent care of the children in her charge. Everyone seems to be clear on that premise. It’s all the extra requests that can cause problems. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t discuss what tasks are fair or realistic for a parent to ask a nanny to do beyond taking care of the children. To be fair, there is a lot of grey area.
Here’s the standard that most agencies quote: “Anything to do with the children is the nanny’s job: making their meals and maintaining the kitchen, cleaning their rooms, washing their laundry and putting it away, straightening and organizing their play area and toys.” So far, so good. While there is a domestic component to any nanny job, most nannies do not want to be viewed as domestics. They are not billing themselves as housecleaners or housekeepers. But, there are nanny housekeepers or housekeeper nannies whose jobs may be 50% childcare and 50% housekeeping. Housekeepers often make more on an hourly basis than nannies. I’ve never understood why.
The issues arise when expectations aren’t clear or realistic. Most nannies do not want to wash their employers’ underwear. While throwing in an extra load or two of laundry –time permitting-may not be a big deal, the thought of dealing with boxers and bras is not appealing to many nannies—especially younger ones.
Food prep presents another possible point of disagreement. Many parents would love to have help with dinner especially if the nanny is preparing food for the children. Many nannies draw the line. They do not want to cook for the adults—mostly because they feel that they aren’t chefs or cooks. It’s added pressure for them and can be time consuming. But there are exceptions. We have some nannies who love to cook and bake. It’s a creative outlet for them. Once the children are old enough to be eating what their parents eat, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the nanny to make extra of anything she’s making for the children. Unless it makes her unhappy.
New moms often think that babies are easy and that nannies have a lot of down time. They think they need to give their employees a list of chores to keep them busy. “I’m not paying her to sit all day”—an unpleasant refrain we’ve heard too many times. Let me assure you as the mother of a colicky baby, all babies are not easy, and there isn’t always a big block in the day with nothing to do. Remember, if a nanny is vacuuming she may not hear crying. If she has a list of domestic chores to do, she will not be spending that time with the baby.
My suggestion is to find out what a nanny really likes to do domestically. Some people love doing laundry. Others, not so much. Play to people’s strength.
One additional area to address. Nannies aren’t dog walkers. There is a proliferation of businesses that offer dog walking services. Many nannies especially, those from other cultures, are not excited in the least about taking care of cats and dogs. (Include gerbils, bunnies, snakes, etc in the list) Opening the back door to let the dog out is not too much to ask. Cleaning out pet cages—no.
Nannying is a professional choice for those who love to care for, nurture, and teach children one on one in a home setting. For years nannies have tried to distinguish themselves from being equated with housekeepers or domestics—and now pet sitters. There are different skill sets involved in each job. While it would be great for employers to find the all-in-one person to make their lives easier, this expectation is not particularly realistic. The focus when filling a childcare position needs to be on finding the best nanny for the children. All the rest is gravy.